OUT OF LEFT FIELD-WHERE COUNTRY MEETS SOUL.

OUT OF LEFT FIELD-WHERE COUNTRY MEETS SOUL.

Country music has always been inextricably linked with soul music. In some cases, the two go hand-in-hand. This has been documented by Ace Records on their Where Country Meets Soul series. 

The series began in June 2012, with the release of Behind Closed Doors: Where Country Meets Soul. It found twenty-three stars of soul covering songs made famous by country artists. With names like Aaron Neville, Esther Phillips, Al Green, James Carr, Candi Staton, Bettye Swann and Millie Jackson,  it was no surprise when Behind Closed Doors: Where Country Meets Soul was released to critical acclaim and commercial success. Surely, there would a followup?

There was. Just eleven months later, Sweet Dreams: Where Country Meets Soul Volume 2 was released. The track listing was star-studded, featuring contributions from The Sweet Inspirations, Otis Redding, Bobby Bland, David Ruffin and Dorothy Moore. That’s not forgetting James Carr, Bettye Swann, and Millie Jackson. It was no surprise that Sweet Dreams: Where Country Meets Soul Volume 2 received the same plaudits, and enjoyed the same commercial success as Behind Closed Doors: Where Country Meets Soul. Ace Records had another successful compilation on their hands. Fans of the series crossed their fingers, and awaited Volume 3.

Luckily, the didn’t have long to wait. In August 2014, Cold Cold Heart-Where Country Meets Soul Volume 3 was released. Referring to the track listing as star-studded was almost an understatement. There were contributions from Percy Sledge, Margie Joseph, Arthur Alexander, The Supremes, Bobby Bland, Brook Benton, Esther Phillips and The Isley Brothers. Ace Records had surpassed themselves. Cold Cold Heart-Where Country Meets Soul Volume 3. Critics and music lovers agreed that the third instalment in the series was the finest. Despite this, it’s been eighteen months since the last instalment in the Where Country Meets Soul series.

At last, the wait is over, and Ace Records return with another instalment in the Where Country Meets Soul series, Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country. It was recently released by Ace Records and is described as as “a complement to this well-received series.” On Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country, Ace Records flip over the coin, and present an album where country artists cover soul and R&B songs. There’s even a few classics thrown in for good measure, as the great and good of country music reinvent some familiar songs.

Playing a starring role on Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country, are Hank Williams Jr., Waylon Jennings And Willie Nelson, Anita Carter, Skeeter Davis, Don Gibson, Ronnie Milsap, Tanya Tucker, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn and the one and only Man In Black, Johnny Cash. These are just a few members of the great and good of country music who feature on On Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country. With a compilation that oozes quality, choosing the highlights isn’t going to be neigh on impossible. However, here goes.

Opening Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country, is Daaron Lee’s cover of Johnny Taylor’s million selling single Who’s Making Love. This was the first release on Stax Records’ Hip Records imprint in 1969. Daaron Lee, which was the alias of Billy Lee Riley, was the perfect choice to launch Hip Records.

He had previously released singles on Sun, Mercury, Rita and Myrl. Despite what was an irresistible, and full full-blown country makeover of  Who’s Making Love, Daaron Lee’s cover failed commercially. It seemed that Stax Records lacked the skills required to break a country single. Sadly, since then, Daaron Lee’s cover of Whose Making Love has become a mere footnote in the sometimes turbulent history of Stax Records. Not any more. Now a new generation will hear Daaron Lee’s hidden gem, Who’s Making Love.

Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn’s Out Of Left Field gave Percy Sledge a hit in 1967. Twenty-six years later, and Hank Williams Jr. decided Out Of Left Field. It lent its name to Hank Williams Jr’s 1993 album, which was released on Capricorn Records. One of the highlights was the title-track, a delicious fusion of country, soul and gospel harmonies. By the closing notes of the song, Hank Williams Jr. is no longer just the son of a famous father, but a star in his own right.

Ever since Otis Redding released Sitting On The Dock in 1966, it’s been an oft-covered song. These cover versions have varied in quality. They’re best described as good, bad and indifferent. One of the best covers of Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay, came in 1982, when Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson covered the song for their sophomore album WWII. Four of the songs were produced by Chips Moman, including Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay. He worked his magic. With a crack band accompanying them, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson deliver a beautiful, but understated, wistful and soulful cover of a  classic.

Just before he cofounded Philadelphia International Records with Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff cowrote Only The Strong Survive with Jerry Butler. It gave hime one of the biggest hits of his career in 1969. A year later, Skeeter Davis covered Only The Strong Survive for her 1970 album Maryfrances. By then, Skeeter Davis had enjoyed forty hit singles. She certainly knew how to breath life and meaning into a song. Skeeter Davis certainly does that on Only The Strong Survive. Rueful and tinged with hurt and regret, it’s a heart-wrenching fusion of soul and country.

For most people, When Something Is Wrong With My Baby is synonymous with Sam and Dave. They were the first people to enjoy a hit with the Isaac Hayes and David Porter song. However, Charlie Rich recorded the song a week earlier, but his version lay unreleased until the eighties. By then, Sonny James had covered When Something Is Wrong With My Baby in 1976. It was released on Columbia, reaching number six in the US Billboard 100. Heartfelt and emotive, Sonny James doesn’t just deliver the lyrics, but it seems is living them. It’s a truly moving  rendition of a familiar song.

In 1978, Don Gibson covered Starting All Over Again. It was penned by Prince Phillip Mitchell, but made famous by Mel and Tim in 1972. Six years later, and fifty year old Don Gibson entered the studio and recorded Staring All Over Again. He was looking for the sixty-sixth hit of his solo career. Staring All Over Again didn’t disappoint. Don Gibson’s lived-in, worldweary vocal sounds as if he’s lived and survived the lyrics. Augmented by soulful harmonies, a peerless cover of Starting All Over unfolds. Later in 1978, the single lents its name to Don Gibson’s latest album. By then, Don Gibson was looking for his sixty-seventh hit single.

Oft-covered describes Warm And Tender Love. Joe Heywood, Percy Sledge, Arthur Prysock and Joe Simon had all cut versions of Warm And Tender Love. However, its hadn’t been cut by a country artist. So Archie Campbell and Lorene Mann decided to do so. They were an unlikely pairing. Lorene Mann was a singer who sometimes, dabbled in songwriting; while Archie Campbell was a DJ, hosted a television chat show, writer, comedian and singer. Archie Campbell was drafted in to replace Lorene Mann’s former partner by RCA Victor. Their debut came in 1968. 

That’s when Archie Campbell and Lorene Mann entered the studio with producer Bob Ferguson, and later in 1968, their version of Warm And Tender Love was released as a single on RCA Victor. It also featured on their 1968 album Archie And Lorene Tell It Like It Is, which featured another cover of a soul classic, The Dark End Of The Street. These tracks were two of the highlights of Archie Campbell and Lorene Mann one and only collaboration.

From the opening bars of Ronnie Milsap’s cover of Any Day Now, there’s sense of anticipation. Soon, there’s a sense of sadness as Ronnie delivers Burt Bacharach and Bob Hilliard’s song. It was originally a hit for soul singer. That was ironic.

For years, Ronnie Milsap had tried to make it as a soul singer. However, commercial success eluded him. When he tried his hand as a country singer, Ronnie Milsap enjoyed  the commercial success that had eluded him. By the time Ronnie Milsap covered Any Day Now in 1982, he had enjoyed thirty-four country hit singles. When the rueful, soulful strains of Any Day Now reached number one, thirty-four became thirty-five.

By 1982, Tanya Tucker was one of the biggest names in country music, and had just covered Baby I’m Yours. Penned by Van McCoy, it had originally been covered by Barbara Lewis in 1965. Six years later, Jody Miller enjoyed a hit single with Baby I’m Yours. Then in 1982, Tanya Tucker recorded Baby I’m Yours for her Changes album. A heartfelt, soulful ballad, it’s the perfect showcase for the Texan born Tanya Tucker.

Covering a classic is never easy. By then, definitive version has been recorded. The Kendalls must have known this when they covered Dark End Of The Street in 1983. Penned by Chips Moman and Dan Penn, and brought to life by James Carr, it’s a stonewall classic. This didn’t stop Royce and Jeannie Kendall enjoying a top twenty country single with their heart wrenching cover of James Carr’s classic.

Another song written by Chips Moman and Dan Penn is Do Right Woman Do Right Man. They were one of the most successful songwriting team of their generation, and penned countless classics including Do Right Woman Do Right Man. It was originally cut by Aretha Franklin. After that, it was a favourite of country singers.

Barbara Mandrell released it as a single in 1971, before Billie Jo Spears recorded Do Right Woman Do Right Man for her Blanket On The Ground album in 1976. By then, Billy Jo Spears was one of country music’s most successful singers. She was also vying for the title of first lady of country. No wonder. Her vocal bring the lyrics to life, as she this classic song.

My final choice from is David Allen Coe’s He Will Break Your Heart. He had a chequered life before making a career out of music. Thirty years of David’s life were spent in either reform school or prison. However, music offered David an escape. 

Originally, he was a blues singer. However, when he turned to country music, he had found his musical niche. His first hit came in 1975 with You Never Even Called Me By My Name. Over the next eight years, David enjoyed a degree of success. Then in 1983, he covered He Will Break Your Heart, for his Hello In The album.  He Will Break Your Heart had originally given Jerry Butler a hit on 1961. Producer by Billy Sherrill, David Allen Coe, makes the song his own delivering an impassioned, emotive cover. It’s a truly powerful song from David Allen Coe and one of the highlights of Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country.

It’s a welcome addendum to the Where Country Meets Soul series, Ace Records Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country. It certainly complements the Where Country Meets Soul series.

On Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country, Ace Records flip over the coin, and present an album where country artists cover twenty-four soul and R&B songs. A few classics are thrown in for good measure, and are reinvented by the great and good of country music. Some familiar faces play starring role on Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country.

Among them are Hank Williams Jr., who was no longer just the son of a famous father. There’s two collaboration between tow country greats, Waylon Jennings And Willie Nelson; and Conway Twitty And Loretta Lynn. Then vying for the title of the first lady of country music are Anita Carter, Skeeter Davis, Tanya Tucker, Linda Martell and Billy Jo Spears. That’s not forgetting Don Gibson sixty-sixth solo country hit, Starting All Over Again. Don’s worldweary vocal make the lyrics sound personal. So does Ronnie Milsap on Any Day Now. Closing Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country is Johnny Cash. It wouldn’t be a country compilation without the Man In Black, who reworks Joe Tex’s Look At Them Beans (Papa’s Dream). These are just a few of the tantalising tastes of Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country. 

With its star-studded lineup, Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country is the perfect addendum to Ace Records’ Where Soul Meets Country series. Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country also “complements” the three previous volumes of Where Soul Meets Country series. Just like Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country, they belong in the collection of anyone interested in soul or country music.

OUT OF LEFT FIELD-WHERE COUNTRY MEETS SOUL.

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